Columns

Offline: Some not-so-important matters

Allow me, if I may, engage in some bellyaching on a couple of matters that affect a lot of Filipinos. First is the growing presence of social media “influencers” who present themselves as experts on a variety of topics, mostly inconsequential.

There are those who proclaim themselves experts on fashion or beauty products or entertainment, which is well and good. I have no beef with them, as I have no expertise at all on such matters, which I consider trivial, but which many of my friends will strongly disagree with.

Then there are those who have appointed themselves as political commentators, and they are free to mouth their opinions whenever and wherever they like, on one condition. Let them voice their own opinion, not those of others who reward them for seeing things their way.

The old term for them is environmental journalists, and turning into bloggers or vloggers only makes them the same dog with a different collar. 

What really gets my goat are those influencers who go to the provinces, head for the best restaurants with their hangers on, order more food and drink than they can consume, and refuse to pay because they say they’re doing the owners a favor.

If I may, I would like to paraphrase an Fb friend who says that too many of these influencers complain about the skimpy loot bags they receive when attending press cons, small “appearance fees” at events where they are invited, and lack of special treatment when they deign show their presence at resorts, restaurants, and hotels.

For a lot of us oldtimers, they’re just spoiled brats who do not deserve anyone’s time of day.

My friends in the public relations industry share some of the guilt of these damn influencers actually believing that they are fit to shine the shoes of real honest-to-goodness print and broadcast journalists who have and continue to pay their dues.

Almost all the good ones from the legit media organizations are graduates of four year courses of good to excellent colleges and universities. They may not necessarily be journ or masscom grads, but a diploma hanging in their parents’ walls says that they earned the right to enter the world of journalism, Philippine style.

The door was opened for them, but there is never a guarantee that they will succeed. It all counts on their skills coupled with ‘abilidad,’ or street smarts.

                                                     Growing by leaps and bounds

With all my angst being said and done, I now turn to sports. See, for many years, I was a sports columnist for a business paper.

In previous years and decades, when pro or amateur sports was the topic, the Philippine Basketball Association was the league.

Not anymore.

Now, volleyball has become the favored sport of Pinoys, specifically women’s volleyball. Be it amateur or pro women’s volleyball, not only do they draw bigger live crowds and TV audiences than the PBA, which may almost be considered a dying league.

Even Manny Pacquiao’s Maharlika Philippine Basketball League has been drawing larger crowds than the PBA.

A lot of experts blame corporate greed for the sad state of the PBA. Two of the Philippines’ biggest business groups – the MVP Group and the SMC Group – own three teams each.

Because the titans have the big bucks, they are able to grab the best players. Not only that, they are also somehow able to twist the recruitment rules, such that other “lesser” teams have seen a regular exodus of their best players to either the SMC or MVP teams.

As a result, it is only the MVP and SMC teams that win championships. This inequity was the reason that the fabled Alaska team decided to leave the league a few years back.

There should be a simple solution to this – the PBA should disallow mega business groups from owning more than two teams. Actually, one team each would be even better.

Unless Asia’s oldest professional basketball league corrects its course soonest, its demise will not be too far off.

Right now, women’s volleyball is so popular that its pro league has been going on an expansion binge, with new teams being formed and a beeline forming to join.

There is, however, one red flag. The salaries of players has gone through the roof, with the top players now getting up to a quarter million pesos salary per month, on top of such perks as signing bonuses, houses and cars. Even the lowest paid players –those who spend more time on the bench than the court – receive P50,000/month.

The problem? Some owners are against putting up a ceiling in pay. This could result in the Premiere Volleyball League turning into another PBA, only with volleybelles instead of cagers. The big companies may come in and start recruiting the best players left and right. This is already happening to some extent, with stars from the UAAP going pro even before completing their maximum playing years.

I get that some players may come from not very wealthy families, so perhaps hardship exemptions may be allowed. Let them turn pro after two years.

                                                      Overpriced fried chicken, anyone?

This brings me to my latest peeve or irritant, one which affects millions of Filipinos.

I’m aware that fastfood prices in the US have skyrocketed, of late. The reason cited by the companies that own or run such giants as McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway, and Starbucks, among others is the hike in minimum wage. It’s now $20 per hour in California, isn’t it?

Here in the Philippines, far and away the biggest fastfood chain is Jollibee, which owns a number of other restaurants such as ChowKing, Greenwich, and Mang Inasal, among many, many others.

In recent years, the publicly-listed company has gone beyond fastfood with purchases of the likes of Tim Ho Wan, Red Ribbon, and The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, and even Smashburger in the US and God knows what else.

It’s a global success story, no doubt, but very lately there have been mounting complaints about how Jollibee’s top product, Chickenjoy, has not only shrunk in size even as prices have gone up.

Since there’s a Jollibee very near my place, I went and ordered their popular chicken – billed not too long ago as one of the best in the world – and can confirm that the servings have become pathetically small. And yes, prices have gone up substantially since the pre-pandemic days.

The sad thing is that the employees have not received any substantial pay hikes. Whatever adjustments they’ve received has been minimal at best, and definitely far behind the country’s inflation, one of the problems that the government is unable to solve.

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